Deregulating and Privatizing Education
In every corner of life where deregulation and privatization has been applied, it has been an unqualified disaster for the vast majority of families and communities, both in the United States and throughout the world. And, yet, Guggenheim and his authorities want us to believe that educational policy will prove to be the exception to the rule.
But, let us be clear: deregulation and privatization have not been an unqualified disaster for all. Many of us (and that includes me and most of my acquaintances), have benefited from deregulation and privatization. While increases in our wages and benefits have dramatically slowed or flattened over the past thirty years, they have not slowed or flattened anywhere near as dramatically as have the bottom ninety percent of the population. Their loss, however, spells my gain.
Yes, revenues and expenditures on (non-defense, non-health care related) public institutions have declined dramatically over the past thirty years. That means that our public schools, libraries, roads, public transportation, and parks must do with much less than they once did. For families who depend on these public facilities—not me or my friends—this is unfortunate. For the remaining ten percent—me and my friends—this means that we enjoy the privilege of institutions and processes uncluttered by the exceptional needs, interests, and patterns of use common to the other ninety percent. Of course, we have to pay for this privilege. But, thanks to deregulation and privatization, which have hurt them more than they have hurt us, we can afford to pay the bill.
Sure, the teachers in the charter schools and private schools where we send our children are among those hurt by this revolution. But, just as with our house cleaners, gardeners, dry cleaners, food preparation specialists, and nannies, we can also clearly see in the personal sacrifices these teachers and their families are willing to make on behalf of us and our children, that they are much better suited to serving me and my family’s educational needs than the selfish teachers and union bosses who believe that they also have a right to a living wage, to quality health care or job security, or to spending quality time with their own families.
Guggenheim’s response to these families is, essentially, tough luck. Times have changed. Immediately after World War II, our public schools were ready to prepare workers for a variety of blue collar, low tech, low skill jobs, while sending a small handful off to college. Today, by contrast, a college education is essential; and, yet, our public schools have not changed with the times. To help them change, we must get big government and big labor off our backs and restore our schools to the hands of those who have our children’s best interests at heart.
We know how this works for children, such as our own, who enjoy parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles and friends who have the interest, energy and time to fight for and ensure good learning outcomes. But, how does this work for children who, for whatever reason, are not surrounded by such adults who will fight on their behalf? How does undermining public institutions, regulations, and public oversight help these children? How does fighting against the job security, living wages, and meaningful benefits enjoyed uniquely by organized workers in inner cities help children born into union households?